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Carnival, Greyhound leverage onboard apps with chat and destination options

Carnival Cruise Line and Greyhound bus company are leveraging mobile applications onboard their transportation vehicles that allow consumers to exchange messages with fellow travelers and purchase tickets to events, respectively, displaying that onboard apps are taking off in popularity.

Greyhound, a provider of intercity bus transportation in the United States, is rolling out OnTouch, a catalog that allows passengers to purchase theater tickets, transportation offers and admission to popular attractions onboard using their personal Wi-Fi enabled mobile device. Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Line is offering its travelers on the Carnival Breeze ship a new mobile app that provides a variety of relevant information and also allows them to exchange messages with traveling companions for a one-time fee of $5 for the duration of the cruise.

“Our goal is to meaningfully improve the guest experience with technology,” said Gabriela Gonzalez, vice president of technology and photo for Carnival. “As such, we have been talking to guests for over 18 months to understand their specific needs and challenges.

“It was clear for the beginning that communication was an issue; guests were spending too much time trying to locate each other on board. We even piloted an app for a few weeks in May 2013 not only to confirm this finding, but also to better understand the challenges of communications in a ship environment without relying on satellite connectivity,” she said.

“We also launched multiple surveys and engaged in multiple guest and team member interviews to inform our development. In November, we made a beta app available on the Carnival Breeze and guests have fully embraced it.”

Useful updates
Carnival Cruise Line’s Shipboard app is offering passengers a chat feature alongside an optional social media package, which provides guests unlimited access to Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social networking sites for $5 per day or $25 per cruise voyage. The package is currently undergoing a pilot period.

The cruising company is also testing enhanced Internet access aboard its Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Freedom ships that ramps up bandwith and speed.

The Carnival Hub app, which is free to download, offers guests a streamlined glance of the ship’s plethora of activities, facilities and other happenings. Travelers seeking to make connections with other passengers can pay the flat rate of $5 per voyage to use the chat feature, which also provides group chat functionality.

Users will be able to locate a daily schedule of hundreds of events on board the ship, such as show times for comedy events  and movies, and a “favorites” feature that enables them to view what activities their companions are planning to attend.

Searchable deck plans are also available, as is information on dining options as well as real-time updates on travelers’ current Sail & Sign account balances.

“We are working diligently to respond to guest feedback on how the app can further enrich their experience,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “The ability to purchase a shore excursion, view and purchase a photo from the on-board Pixels gallery, and make dining reservations area among some of the features that guest want and thus we are moving ahead to deliver them.”

Purchasing onboard
Greyhound, another transportation company, is attempting to leverage its app and increased Wi-Fi capabilities to drive commerce on board its vehicles.

The OnTouch service is now available of its Greyhound and BoltBus transportation services. Customers using the platform can receive exclusive access to destination packages via the buses’ free Wi-Fi options.

Travelers can also purchase offers for further ground transportation, such as shared rides, shuttles and private limousines.

Greyhound has been revamping its onboard services in a bid to improve the travel experience for guests, prompting the company to introduce an updated Wi-Fi platform that enables consumers to stay socially connected while en route to their destinations.

A revamped Web site homepage and a new mobile application that makes it easier for customers to manage their traveling while on the go are also part of the redesign (see story).

Ultimately, more transportation brands are responding to consumer demand for better Wi-Fi options on board and apps that function as an additive experience to their travel journeys.

“For us, improving all aspects of guests’ experience is our goal,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “Mobile happens to be a powerful platform to accomplish this goal as a high percentage of our guests own smartphones and bring them on board.

“We believe there are so many opportunities to enrich the cruise vacation through a seamless digital experience and the Carnival Hub app will be driving a lot of that innovation.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York